Head out to these springs, get yourself into hot water

Of several natural hot springs in Southern Nevada, Rogers Spring and neighboring Blue Point Spring remain among the most accessible on public lands.

Just off the North Shore Road between Echo Bay and Overton, the two springs are about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas within Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Access scenic North Shore Road from North Las Vegas, Henderson or Boulder City. For a scenic loop, return using Interstate 15, reached through Valley of State Fire Park or Overton. Entrance fees apply for Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Valley of Fire State Park.

Although the springs remain open all year, they are most appealing from September through May. Summer visitors should plan a morning arrival, before the day’s heat becomes intolerable.

Watch for the turnoff to the short spur road to the springs on the west side of the highway a few miles past the Echo Bay access road. The little road takes you to a parking area near Rogers Spring, connected to Blue Point Spring by another short side road.

No fee is charged for use of the area. The National Park Service provides trash receptacles and restrooms. Visitors wading in the warm water must wear bathing suits. The site remains open from sunrise to 10 p.m. Overnight use is prohibited.

Pack your picnic supplies to one of several tables nestled in the shade around the pond at Rogers Spring, or aim for Blue Point Spring, where there are fewer amenities and fewer fellow picnickers. Bring plenty of drinking water, at least a gallon per person. Picnic sites include grills, but you must bring wood or charcoal. Bring trash bags to take your refuse home for disposal.

Rogers Spring and smaller Blue Point Spring are true desert oases with shallow ponds fed by hot water springs and fringed by desert trees, palms and marshy vegetation. The water comes to the surface at about 100 degrees, cooling to about 90 degrees in the ponds. Overflow from the springs creates little creeks that meander toward the shore of Lake Mead.

Many visitors explore the wetlands, following the course of the creeks through the desert. For a good overview from an elevated point above Rogers Spring, climb the short hiking trail starting to the right of the bridge across the creek.

The largest of several warm water springs along a fault line, Rogers Spring discharges hundreds of gallons per minute, constantly refreshing the water in the pool. Scientists think the water originates 250 miles north near Ely, part of an extensive aquifer in eastern Nevada and western Utah.

As long as there have been human inhabitants in our area, the water bubbling to the surface at these springs attracted visitors. Ancient visitors were probably early hunter-gatherers. Later cultures that built multi-storied villages and farmed along the Muddy River would have used the springs in their travels. Later still, a new culture rediscovered the springs in the 1800s. The spot became a favorite leisure-time destination for Mormon pioneers settling the nearby river valley, establishing communities such as Overton, Logandale and St. Thomas.

During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps enhanced the site’s appeal with picnic tables, sunshades and a small dam to deepen the pond for swimming. Visitors enjoyed these improvements for several decades. However, by the 1970s, when the National Park Service acquired the area, the facilities had deteriorated. Because broken glass made using the pond hazardous and there was no lifeguard, the park service removed the old dam, cleaned up the debris and created a shallow pool suitable for wading, not swimming.

Visitors enter the water at their own risk. Posted signs warn waders about a potentially deadly parasite found in some of the warm springs in our area. This amoeba enters the body through the nasal passages and travels to the brain. It caused at least one death several years ago at a different spring, so it’s wise not to submerge or get spring water up your nose.

Margo Bartlett Pesek’s column appears on Sundays.

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